How A Senior Move Manager Can Help You Downsize Stress Free

This is Ben Souchek with Home Downsizing Solutions. And thank you for joining us for this week’s interview. Today, I have Jennifer Pickett with the National Association of Senior Move Managers with us today. So, Jennifer, thank you for joining us this morning. I know that a lot of people will enjoy your information, and get a lot out of it. So, thank you for joining me this morning.

Jennifer: A senior move manager is a professional who works with older adults and their families to assist with downsizing and relocation, both the physical and emotional aspects of that. So, everything from space planning for the new residents to helping them sort through a lifetime of possessions, to handling estate sales, junk removal, overseeing the move, packing, and then resettling the client in their new place.

Making a move at any age is very stressful. But when you are in your later years, usually, something has happened that precipitates a need for this type of move. So, generally, you’re dealing with sometimes some very, very profound losses. It could be the loss of a spouse, but it could also be the onset of dementia, or chronic illness.

Very rarely does somebody wake up after being in their home for 40 years and say, “Honey, let’s move.” So, senior move managers have a passion for helping older adults make these transitions in their later years, so that they have a stress free move.

There’s a lot that goes into a move. I mean, in all reality, if you have parents that have been in their home for 30 or 40 years, the very thought that you and your siblings, or friends could come in and downsize them over the course of a weekend is not realistic. And it’s also irresponsible.

One of sort of the hallmarks of senior move management is that senior move managers help older adults part with possessions without parting with memories. And to think that you can just bring a dumpster in, and just start throwing things in there and saying, “Oh Mom or Dad, you don’t need this anymore,” is not only disrespectful, but it is harmful.

A move that does not go smoothly, the likelihood of the new, I hate to use the word placement it sounds so clinical. But if they’re moving to an assisted living or some other senior living community the likelihood of that being a successful move and the older adult being happy in their new environment is diminished greatly.

Senior move managers also have a lot of tools and tricks that normal families just don’t have. They know where to donate those hard to place items. They know, they understand the ethics behind this type of a move. They understand the importance of listening to the client and having them be able to share their stories. It’s not necessarily about the 30 teapots that maybe mom has collected. It’s the stories behind those collections that are so important. And just being able to document that and maybe take a picture of that teapot is enough to let that teapot go.

The other issue is more of an operations issue. I mean, you just don’t pull up to a senior living community and say, “Hey, we’re here moving in.” There are normally dozens or hundreds of other residents that live there. That is their home. You cannot monopolize an elevator. You cannot block hallways. You cannot do any of that stuff. And right now, specifically in a COVID environment, senior living communities are very, very strict about who they are allowing in. And move managers are in that specialized group where families are not.

So, senior move managers, they have significant expertise, and resources, and approaches that save money, save time, reduce the stress. And absolutely produce the results that a family wants. They want their older adults to be happy.

I mean, to be able to go from a home of 40 years, and to walk into their new residence, and to have everything put away. Pictures hung over the couch like they were for 30 years, the kitchen organized the bedding put on, they electronics attached, the curtains hung, the planters on the patio, it’s all done, all done. All they have to do, at that point, is begin living their new life with an environment that really supports their new normal.

We hear it time and time again, that they don’t know what they would have done without their senior move manager. It becomes a very intimate relationship based on trust. And because the senior living professionals generally also have relationships with other residents in the communities that they’re moving older adults into, they’re also a bridge, a social bridge. They’ll see a client in the hallway, or they’ll call a client, and say, “I’m going to be there. And I just moved in a resident, can I introduce you to her,” and that type of thing. So, they’re also there to help build community within communities.

This is often a very, very tough conversation for older adults and their children, their adult children. Most older adults, unless we’re dealing with cognitive impairment and things like that, start to realize when their home is going to be too much. It’s probably best to allow them to guide the conversation. You cannot impose things on your parents, unless of course you have a power of attorney or something like that. So, having them very much engaged in the conversation.

When we hear the phrase, “I’m not ready,” we know that underneath, under, “I’m not ready,” is, “I don’t know what this looks like. I don’t know how I’m going to do this. What’s going to happen to all of my stuff?” It’s just overwhelming. And so, hiring that third-party, impartial person who can allow the children to be children, allow the parent to be parent, and have them facilitate all of this, it makes a lot of sense.

And so, the general step is when it’s determined that perhaps we should start looking at a new living environment for our parents or loved ones clearly taking them out, and having them tour the assisted living, or senior living communities in the area is going to be essential. But then, bringing in a senior move manager who can number one, sit down with the client and their family, if that is what the client wants, and kind of go through their story and why they’re considering making the move.

From there, it starts to become pretty operational. It’s going room to room throughout the house, and talking about what things they’d like to take, what things they don’t don’t really care about, those types of things.

And then, the senior move manager then can work on a floor plan for them. And so, by working with the senior living community, they can get down to the exact unit within the community. And they can design a floor plan with their items. And that’s where the process kind of crystallizes. That we can tell, at that point, what’s going to fit. And then, the process of dealing with what’s not going to fit comes into play.

The term senior move management is almost a misnomer because the move is generally the smallest part of the actual job. It’s really decluttering and downsizing, sorting, organizing years and years of possessions.

So, the senior move manager will work with the client and the client’s family to absolutely go through everything, decide who gets what. There’s even technology out there that if it’s not a happy family, if you will, and there are some discrepancies about who should get what they can use some of these softwares that are out there to help the family kind of equitably distribute possessions. And then, from there, it’s overseeing the move.

Some senior move managers pack. Others rely on a partnership with a trusted moving partner to do the packing. And then, it’s overseeing that move because the senior move manager is going to be resettling the client. Then, the senior move manager needs to know what’s going to go, or tells them over what needs to go on the truck first, because whatever it comes on the truck first, obviously, comes off the truck last. So, things like the kitchen and things like that are generally things that need to go in.

And senior move managers are also, very careful about things like medications. You can’t pack medications, that’s going to be something that they need. Real valuables, jewelry, and cash, and things like that, they always want to make sure that that’s on the client, or with their family during a move, so that there’s no question of integrity and things like that.

And they’re very, very attentive to safety with older adults. If you’ve got a moving company in there, and you live in the Midwest, and it’s January, you can not have a door propped. If you have a client that’s on a walker, or has balance or mobility issues you can’t have packing materials and boxes everywhere.

So, the senior move manager, even if they’re not packing, they’re going to be there to make sure that everything is comfortable for the client, and safe for the client. And you can’t start boxing up lamps when it gets dark at four o’clock. So, they’re very keen to not only the operational aspects of the move, but the emotional and safety issues for their clients.

First of all, the term senior move manager is trademarked term. So anyone who’s calling themselves a senior move manager should be a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers. All of our members are screened for insurance, they are required to take courses in ethics and safety, in understanding contracts and liability, and understanding the moving profession.

Additionally, many of our members have also pursued our senior move manager certified designation, which involves both additional coursework, and proof of experience. And then, in terms of that experience, that is a minimum of 40 full senior moves that need to be conducted before they can even apply. So, you’re dealing with those individuals who have committed to additional education and training. And probably, I would say, close to about 35% of our members right now are certified. Certification’s been out for just over five years now.

The other important thing is to always interview more than one, if you can. It’s a relationship based profession. And we joke about it sometimes at the office, about how many times have you been in your father’s underwear drawer? So, this is an intimate relationship, and you will want to make sure that you trust.

And the other thing that adult children need to recognize is that in terms of working with one of our members, the person who’s in transition is the client. It doesn’t matter who’s paying the bill. And the reason that that is, is because the end result is for that client to have a stress-free move. And sometimes that’s a little hard to understand when you say, “Listen, I’m the one writing the check.” But, at the end of the day, it’s your older adult, it’s your mother, your father that we’re concerned about. And so, doing everything in our power to make sure that this older adult is experiencing a very seamless and stress-free move is that’s the ultimate result, which is why the older adult is technically the client.

Ben Souchek: Jennifer, again, thank you very much for the time this morning, because I know that people that my company works with would, certainly, find us very beneficial and, certainly, more and more people are going to find working with a senior move manager more and more beneficial as all of us get older.

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